Homeless Network Scotland response to Scottish Budget cuts on affordable housing

Homeless Network Scotland is deeply concerned by cuts to affordable housing spending announced in the 2024-2025 Budget. This comes despite consistent and united warnings on the urgent need to tackle a spiralling housing crisis which is holding back people and communities.

Without more homes, we exclude thousands of people in Scotland from equality, opportunity and community – the three priorities of the Scottish Government’s budget.

The UK Government has not helped the situation by reducing capital funding in real terms to Scottish Government. But the Scottish Government has chosen to cut further, putting paid to any real prospect of ensuring everyone in Scotland has the home they need. 

Cutting investment in affordable housing by £200million is unexpected and puts the government’s affordable housing building targets at risk. This decision risks undoing all the progress Scottish Government and its partners have made towards ending homelessness and rough sleeping in the last decade.

Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland said: “There is no route towards ending homelessness that doesn’t include building more affordable housing.

“We can’t prevent homelessness without more homes. We can’t scale up Housing First without more homes. We can’t get kids out of temporary accommodation.

“We can’t get single men out of hotel rooms, B&Bs and other inadequate temporary places. We can’t prevent destitution among people seeking sanctuary or to settle in Scotland. And we can’t end poverty and child poverty without more homes.

“The Scottish Government has previously shown bold commitment to ending homelessness through the ambitions set out with COSLA in the joint Ending Homelessness Together Plan.

“Adequate long-term funding is needed to ensure all those ambitions become reality and avoid slipping backwards after years of progress. It would be a tragedy to see that happening in the same year that a Housing Bill containing hard-wrought new prevention duties is introduced to parliament.”

The Scottish Government’s continued support for Rapid Rehousing and Housing First approaches – which get people out of temporary accommodation quickly and help people facing multiple disadvantages by providing flexible wraparound support along with a settled home – is welcome.

But both these strategies need long-term investment so local authorities can make them work – and evidence has shown time and time again that they do work. But most of all, they need housing.

Scottish Government, local councils and charities almost ended rough sleeping during the Covid lockdown in 2020. And through careful planning and reprovisioning, the same partners enabled the safe closure of the remaining ‘shared air’ dormitory-style night shelters in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Three years later, rough sleeping is on the rise along with the threat of unregulated, unsafe night shelter provision re-emerging – and this time without the support of the wider homelessness sector.

This provides an illustration of what lies ahead. Poverty drives homelessness when housing supply doesn’t meet demand. The risk of rough sleeping increases for those at the hardest edge of inequality.

Scotland has some of the strongest homelessness rights anywhere and the Scottish Government can be proud of that record, as well as progressive changes to income tax announced in the Budget, which are a step towards creating the fairer society we all want. Against a backdrop of constrained funding, making better use of the tax levers already within its control is more important than ever.

Failing to provide adequate resources now, for the solutions to ending homelessness which we know are within our grasp, means thousands of people will continue to wait for settled housing, and all the associated health and wellbeing benefits that brings.

It is vital that we all now work together to maximise what we can do with the resources we have – and to find new investment opportunities for housing in Scotland. Scottish Government needs to look at what needs to be done to meet housing need and to tackle poverty and how to achieve this as a matter of urgency.